Growth Analysis of Watermelon Plants Grown with Mulches and Rowcovers

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Plants, Soils and Biometeorology Department, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820

`Crimson Sweet' watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] plants were grown with various mulches and rowcovers and analyzed for relative growth rate (RGR), net assimilation rate (NAR), specific leaf area (SLA), leaf area index (LAI), and crop growth rate (CGR). Spunbonded polyester fabric (SB-PF) and perforated polyethylene film (PCP) rowcovers generally showed greater mean RGR, SLA and CGR than spunbonded polypropylene polyamide net (SB-PP), black plus clear combination plastic mulch and black plastic mulch alone. Plants on mulches and under rowcovers showed significant increases in RGR, NAR, and SLA over plants grown in bare soil. Carbon dioxide concentration inside the transplanting mulch holes was nearly twice the ambient CO, concentration. Growth analysis of sampled watermelon plants during early stages of development under various treatments was predictive of crop yield. Plants under SB-PF and PCP rowcovers produced the earliest fruit and the greatest total yield. An asymmetrical curvilinear model for watermelon growth and development based on cardinal temperatures was developed. The model uses hourly averaged temperatures to predict growth and phenological development of `Crimson Sweet' watermelon plants grown with and without rowcovers. Early vegetative growth correlated well with accumulated heat units. Results indicate a consistent heat unit requirement for the `Crimson Sweet' watermelon plants to reach first male flower, first female flower and first harvest in uncovered plants and plants under rowcovers. Greater variability was observed in predicting date of first harvest than first bloom.

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